NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Being a successful leader has nothing to do with a job title and everything to do with the choices we make that lead to earning respect and trust from those around us.
That’s the message two-time Stanley Cup winner and now retired 11-year veteran of the NHL, Bill Clement, gave during his keynote at Data Center World on Monday. He knows firsthand the importance of leadership, positive thinking, teamwork, and sacrificing for the good of the cause—on and off the ice rink.
“It all about the ability to influence moods, attitudes, behaviors, and contributions to the workplace culture,” Clement said.
The first choice that people must make on their journey to become a successful leader, he said, is embracing challenges, not just accepting them. The author of the book, EveryDay Leadership, used convergence between IT and facilities as an example. It used to be that two people managed the areas individually and more often than not didn’t see eye-to-eye. That disconnect continues to be a big problem in the industry, but today one person is increasingly being asked to do both jobs. There’s no room for barriers in the data center, said Clement, so it’s key that you embrace new roles and do your best to learn what they entail.
He also suggested that people avoid living in the past and always look forward to the future. That’s particularly true for data center professionals who can ill afford to fall behind the technology curve, he said. Nowadays, that’s a recipe for disaster; not just for the data center but for the entire organization.
Don’t Be an Energy Vampire
Another important aspect to leadership Clement focused on was energy—both positive and negative.
“Energy sources are people that you can plug into when you’re down or just want to smile. When you’re in their company, it’s always a positive experience. They’re the first ones to help, and they leave every situation and every person better than they were,” Clement explained.
“An energy vampire is somebody that sucks the life out of every situation they go into. They’re always sick, or tired, and you become sick and tired in their company. You get the feeling that failure is right around the corner. They leave everything worse than they found it.”
Part of an energy vampire’s persona also involves the “90/10 principle,” said Clement. We have no control over 10 percent of the things that happen to us—the weather, global economy, the guy cutting in front of you in traffic, the government. Ninety percent of life is how we react to that 10 percent.
It’s important to remain positive and to be a finder of solutions instead of creator of problems, he said, especially when it might impact the evaluations other people make about image of your data center or company name.
Push Versus Pull
Finally, Clement spoke about the difference between pulling and pushing people. Pushing involves telling people what to do, where to go, what they’ll get paid, and when to leave. It’s leading from a position of authority. “Pulling is motivating to the point of inspiration and helping people feel that their contributions are important,” he said.
Proudly sporting a #10 jersey under his jacket, Clement spoke passionately about the most influential leaders in his life, crediting them with the two Stanley Cup rings he wore as he addressed attendees. One was the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, Bobby Clark. Clement had missed the first two games of the seven-game Stanley Cup final series due to a ligament tear in his knee; and he feared he may not get the chance to play in one ever again. So, he had his doctor remove the cast and tried to skate, but the inflexibility and pain proved too much.
The team trainer suggested that he stop trying to skate and just hit the whirlpool before the start of game four and see how it felt. As Clement soaked his knee, Clark came into the room and sat beside him. He said, “I need to tell you something,” Clement recalled. “I don’t think we can win the Stanley Cup without you. The minors can’t do what you can do. I don’t want you to hurt yourself, but when you’re ready to come back, we’re ready to take you back.”
He didn’t say anything negative; didn’t raise his voice and made me feel vital to the outcome, explained Clement. Although he took the ice limping, he finished games four, five, six, and helped the Flyers clinch the championship against the Boston Bruins in game seven.
“I wouldn’t have been in any of those games if it hadn’t been for Bobby,” Clement admitted.
“Nobody is an Island”
Another leader instrumental in his life was Flyers’ head coach Freddy Shero. After dropping the first game in the Stanley Cup final series with just 52 seconds left in the game, Shero gave the team the option of practicing for a 1 ½ hours or playing nine holes of golf the next day. The team chose golf; and while the Flyers eventually won the series, Clement said he always wondered why Shero put his career on the line by allowing the team to spend that day of leisure. After all, had they lost by a landslide, he would have been criticized and possibly fired.
When Clement finally got the opportunity to ask him that question, he said the coach replied: “The thought had crossed my mind about what might happen to my career, but I knew you knew how to skate and shoot and hit. I never coached a team that had a bond as good as you. I wanted you to laugh together and enjoy each other in an environment outside the ice rink.”
Clement said the fact that Shero sacrificed his own needs for the good of the team and constantly gave more to the culture of the team than he took largely contributed to their success.
“Nobody is an island, no one works in a vacuum or lives in a vacuum; at some point, we all need other people to ensure our success,” he concluded.